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The CURA publications library is currently being digitized by the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy. When the project is complete, the entire CURA publications library will be online and fully searchable. Unfortunately, during this process we are not able to honor individual requests for publications . Additionally, we no longer have physical copies of publications to send out.

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Reforming Teacher Contracts: A Look at the Impact of Q Comp on Student Achievement in Minnesota

Mykerezi, Elton, Aaron Sojourner, and Kristine West

Until recently, teacher employment and pay across the United States was strictly determined by education and experience, even though research shows that teachers with similar credentials and experience vary widely in their ability to influence student outcomes. As a result, there has been a surge in interest nationally in “pay-for-performance” contracts that tie pay to various measures of performance. Critics of pay-for-performance, often including teacher unions, raise concerns about incentives to narrow curricula (aka “teaching to the test”) and adverse effects on teacher collaboration, among others. 

Minnesota’s Q Comp is one of the nation’s largest and longest-lasting pay-for-performance programs; it delivers reform via a voluntary “grantor-grantee” format that ensures political feasibility. Districts design alternative contracts with their unions, then propose them to the state for extra funding. We studied the effect that adoption of Q Comp in Minnesota districts had on student achievement growth and found program adoption leads to an additional month’s worth of learning, on average, in reading scores. Similar gains were observed in math scores, but with less statistical precision. We found no notable evidence of student or teacher movements in response to the program, nor any significant evidence of “teaching to the test.” We concluded that the program increased test scores by providing incumbent teachers with the incentives and tools to adjust their practices in ways that increase test scores. Gains were obtained at relatively low cost, so the program is cost effective. However, the size of the gain was not sufficiently large for such voluntary pay-for-performance to be relied on as the only tool for improving education quality. A well-designed “grantor-grantee” type pay-for-performance program can be a valuable tool in policymaker’s arsenals, for improving education quality. 

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